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I originally asked this on Travel.SE, but didn't get any useful answers. So I thought I'd ask about the legal aspects here. For further details on why I was doing it, see the Travel.SE question.

When I was at an airport baggage conveyor, bags would come up through a feeder conveyor, but an automated system was holding them, waiting for gaps on the main conveyor before it would drop them off. My bag had not yet arrived.

Very few bags were being released, as there weren't big enough gaps on the main conveyor. So I proceeded to group the bags on the conveyor closer together, in order to make bigger gaps to allow more bags to be released.

After 5-10 minutes of this a member of Heathrow staff arrived and started actually taking bags off the conveyor belt, standing them up nearby, and freeing up far more space than I was doing. And eventually my bag arrived.

Are there any legal reasons I shouldn't have been moving other people's bags on the conveyor, or removing them from the conveyor and standing them up?

The obvious main worry is an accusation of theft. I think UK theft laws have wording along the lines of "intent to permanently deprive" people of their belongings, which I'm clearly not doing. But am I doing something illegal by touching someone else's property without their permission, some sort of trespass?

Another worry would be about damage. If I damaged someone else's bag, presumably I'd be liable for the cost of whatever damage I caused?

Answers from a UK perspective are probably most applicable, though as this could happen to many people in many different countries, I'd personally welcome international answers (as long as this doesn't make the question too broad).

  • At least regarding the theft part, it seems you already have your answer. Without the intent to steal (permanently deprive of belonging), it's not likely an accusation of theft would stand. – A.fm. Jan 31 at 13:46
  • In terms of civil liability you're in the territory of "trespass to goods" and another area of law known as "bailment" – lellis Jan 31 at 20:30

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